New Koala SEPP Commences in NSW – But Worse is Yet to Come

Cerin Loane, Senior Solicitor, Environmental Defenders Office

This article originally appeared on EDO’s website (edo.org.au) on 8 April 2021 and has been reprinted with permission.

Following its announcement on 8 March 2021 (see our earlier update), the NSW Government has now made State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2021 (Koala SEPP 2021). It commenced on 17 March 2021, while Koala SEPP 2020 continues to apply to some rural zones.  

Koala Protection in NSW: how our most valued native animal is abused

Gary Dunnett, Executive Officer, NPA NSW

The koala populations of NSW were decimated during the first quarter of the 20th century by commercial hunting for the fur trade.  Many local populations were pushed towards or into extinction.  We’re now nearly a hundred years since the peak of commercial hunting and many areas, especially in the south-eastern corner of the State, remain largely bereft of koalas.  In other places, especially those with limited accessibility, such as the military lands in southwestern Sydney and the dense forests of the northeast, koala populations staged major recoveries after the cessation of commercial harvesting.   

Unfortunately, that recovery had largely come to an end by the 1970s as habitat loss from coastal development, agricultural clearing and forestry, along with increasing mortality due to collisions with motor vehicles, dog attacks and infectious diseases, all took their toll on local koala populations.  The result is that, as we approached 2021, the NSW Upper House Inquiry into the future of koalas in NSW concluded that, without significant change in the way we protect koalas and their habitats, the species will become functionally extinct (ie incapable of maintaining viable local populations) in NSW within the next 50 years.  

Loss of an Icon

Patricia Durman, NPA Macarthur Branch

According to a 2015 report by the Australian Koala Foundation, there were only 87,000 (1% of the original population killed for the pelts) left across Australia. They go on to say that up to 8 million were killed for their pelts before 1927 when the practice was banned across the country.

National Party’s war on Koalas escalates

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) has expressed outrage at documents published by the ABC showing direct intervention by NSW National Party Leader, John Barilaro through the Regional NSW Department to allow logging back into forests heavily impacted by the bushfires. 

Industry jobs scare campaign distracts from the real issue – protecting koalas for future generations 

The timber industry’s attempt to scare the public with claims the Great Koala National Park will harm regional economies seeks to distract from the logging that is pushing koalas closer to extinction.